In a world where music journalists are regularly accused of laying it on a bit thick – from the superlatives liberally scattered in new band profiles to the insistence in some areas of the internet that every note issued by Beyoncé comes freighted with a degree of sociopolitical importance matchless in the history of popular culture – there seemed to be a winning hint of faint praise about the headline attached to one website’s recent profile of a fast-rising new band. “Meet Blossoms,” it suggested, before further enticing interest in the Stockport quintet: “They’re not wankers.”
As it turned out, this was a reference to a hugely entertaining Twitter spat that took place in May, when Blossoms became the latest artist to feel the virtual ire of Jason Williamson, in which the Sleaford Mods frontman variously derided them as “boardroom kiss arse blue tick wankers”, “a wank mess” and “catalogue band bollocks”. He also kept referring to lead singer Tom Ogden as “Chesney”, presumably in reference to clean-scrubbed one-hit wonder Chesney Hawkes.
In fairness, Blossoms gave as good as they got, but the root issue seemed to be that Williamson is old enough to remember a time when the music Blossoms make wouldn’t have been heralded as alternative, but as exactly the kind of music that alternative music was supposed to provide the alternative to. This in spite of the band being hailed in some quarters as the solitary, doughty representatives of good old indie on the BBC Sound of 2016 longlist, the only exemplars of the stuff that once constituted the weekly music press’s lifeblood, amid a selection of rappers, singer-songwriters and mainstream pop R&B. Listening to their eponymous debut album, you can catch a hint of the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner about Ogden’s vocal style, but its main currency is bright, glossy pop-rock, heavy on the synthesised hooks and the vague intimations of white funk: there are moments where you suddenly become rigid with fear, convinced that at any moment, the bass player will prove unable to restrain himself from slapping his instrument in the manner of Level 42’s Mark King.
On At Most a Kiss or Honey Sweet, Blossoms sound remarkably like something from the charts in 1986, and against which the massed ranks of John Peel listeners and NME hacks would have fulminated at length. Certainly, it’s harder to see why the adjective “psychedelic” seems to have been appended to Blossoms’ sound with such frequency (on the evidence of what’s here, they’re about as mysteriously lysergic as a branch of Carpetright) than it is to imagine lead single Charlemagne being introduced on Top of the Pops by Mike Smith or Gary Davis, its chugging rhythm and snagging chorus fitting perfectly between Calling All the Heroes by It Bites and Hollywood Beyond’s What’s the Colour of Money?
So it is that your enjoyment of Blossoms might well be coloured by your tolerance for mainstream pop-rock from the bemulleted, billowing-white-shirted, cower-before-my-futuristic-headless-bass-guitar era between Live Aid and the rise of acid house. Keen-eared listeners might note that, with its pristine jangling guitars, Blown Rose resembles the kind of thing that used to ensue 30 years ago, when an indie band signed to a major label who then stuck them in a studio with a big-name producer in order to gussy up their sound.
Either way, it’s worth noting that what Blossoms lacks in edge or depth, it makes up for in well-turned melodies and the odd deft production touch – even those inclined to the boardroom-kiss-arse-blue-tick-wankers response might be forced to admit that Blown Rose or Getaway have superior, radio-friendly tunes. It’s also worth noting that the 80s pop stuff sounds substantially less exhausted than their solitary tilt towards more recent music. Like the oeuvre of Catfish and the Bottlemen, the acoustic My Favourite Room reanimates gimlet-eyed mid-00s landfill indie to disheartening effect.
In fact, the current band Blossoms most obviously resemble is the 1975. You do get the impression they may have spotted how dressing up 80s-influenced pop in leather-jacketed indie drag sent Matty Healy and co swiftly to the top of the charts. Blossoms are clearly aiming to do something similar, and they may well do it, although there’s not much of the characterful, divisive oddness that Healy brings to the 1975 on display. That said, there’s one really intriguing moment, on a track called Texia: a bit of New Orderish sparkle that stands apart from the rest of the album and suggests there might be a bit more to Blossoms than initially appears.